For HIEs, shared patients and social networks matter more than location

It's not all about location for health information exchange networks--physicians are influenced by other physicians with whom they interact with and have common patients with more than geographical location in HIEs, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

For the study, network effects among clusters of physicians based on their professional and geographical proximities were examined. A diffusion model was used to capture both indirect and direct network effects among groups, studied over a three-year period, for an HIE in Western New York by researchers from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Flow of patients among different groups of physicians was found to be a powerful factor in HIE adoption.

"Direct network effects caused by common patients among physicians are much more influential on HIE adoption as compared with previously investigated social contagion and external factors," the study authors wrote. "Professional proximity due to common patients does influence adoption decisions; geographical proximity is also influential, but its effect is more on rural than urban physicians."

The authors found that the more frequent and empathic the communication is between members of a social network, the more likely that a member's adoption will trigger others. For example, "when a new drug appears, doctors who are in close interaction with their colleagues will similarly interpret for one another the new stimulus that has presented itself, and will arrive at some shared way of looking at it," they said.

Yesterday, FierceHealthIT reported on the formation of one of the country's largest health information exchanges.

Thirty-four Chicago-area hospitals are set to exchange patient data as MetroChicago HIE launches early next year, according to the article. The exchange will operate an online portal that will allow for patient information, such as lab tests, imaging, diagnoses, medications and treatment, to be shared in real time among hospitals, doctors and eventually patients.

Another 20 to 30 hospitals are expected to join by next summer, and officials hope to eventually include all 89 hospitals in the metro area.

To learn more:
- read the study abstract